Martin, a dyslexic boy of 15.

Martin has a chronic inability to learn and retain literacy skills. His verbal skills are age appropriate but his reading and writing are level 1.

By 13 years of age, Martin had undergone a battery of approaches to develop his basic literacy skills, many of these approaches had been multi-sensory, including the Units of Sound recommended by the Dyslexia Institute. He had made some progress but he no longer had confidence in his chances of improving and accepted that he would never be able to read even the most regular of words consistently, nor that he could produce written work intelligible to either himself or others.

He was successful in his application to the Communication Aid Project and was provided with his own lap-top. He had been using Penfriend occasionally when word processing in class and so Penfriend was installed as standard. He was encouraged to use his lap-top consistently whenever he was to produce written work. He used the predictor window of Penfriend, sounding out options as he typed in the initial sounds. Because he used the incremental phonic approach to spellings, he was able to usually type in the correct initial sounds for most of his words. There were still some amusing errors as English threw up the usual anomalies but Martin found that he was producing work that made sense and that could be understood by others. This provided him with motivation to continue.

He discovered the highlight, copy function where Penfriend read out loud; the facility on Clicker 4 that at the time I did not realise was available on Penfriend.

When Martin was 14, in year 10, he was trying out new vocabulary in response to the demands of Entry Level Certificate work. He was introduced to Wordbar where he would work with a member of staff to agree phrases and vocabulary required by the task, these were entered with him into the frame. By using both the Penfriend predictor and Wordbar on the screen, Martin was able to produced extended writing.

Now 15 and in year 11, Martin is still unable to retain digraphs and regular letter combinations and so has to decode every word he reads, but his confidence is such that he has a degree of functional reading. His writing is generally intelligible with a reasonable attempt at longer irregular words. Martin has acquired strategies both with his lap-top and without to overcome some of his specific difficulties, sufficient to enable him to continue learning. I could not ask anymore of him.
Written by Alison Gajdus, Woodlawn School.

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